What does becoming a clinical contact tracer involve?

dentist working as clinical contact tracerBhavin Patel explains why he became a clinical contact tracer and how he’s staying positive during the COVID-19 outbreak.

In February when it was becoming clear something was coming, I like many others began fearing the worst. Not only for my business and livelihood, but what this virus would mean for my family and society as a whole.

When it became apparent we would have to close, I knew it was my duty to utilise my skillset wherever needed. I volunteered and put myself forward, like many of us did. As the weeks passed by and the public heeded the stay at home message, luckily there was no need for us to be called upon.

I own my own fully private practice and am an associate in a mixed. Therefore I have had the fortunate or unfortunate experience of all that this pandemic entails for these positions.

Clinical contact tracers

When I saw the announcement of recruitment for NHS professionals clinical contact tracers in an email from the GDC, I knew it was something I could do and would relish the opportunity. Working as a clinical contact tracer was flexible enough to allow me to work around my schedule. It gave me the chance to play my part and help join the frontline. After always joking to my patients about not having the ability to work from home, the clinical contact tracer role was my chance!

My wife, also being a dentist, was due to return back to work in April from maternity leave. She has also enrolled as a clinical contact tracer. We have now gone through the application, rigorous HR and self-directed training. As health professionals, the NHS regards us as tier two call handlers. We will speak to those diagnosed with COVID-19 to provide instructions, trace their contacts and give advice where we can. Tier three staff would follow up their contacts and give the appropriate instruction and advice. Or we can escalate the case to tier one if we find there to be a complex or a larger public health issue. Tier one has the appropriate contacts and training to deal with it from there.

The next step is to book shifts around taking it in turns to look after our little ones. We are ready for the system to go live. My wife and I are doing role plays to fine tune our newly acquired knowledge and skills.

They’ve asked for a minimum of 12 hours a week as a clinical contact tracer for the foreseeable future. This is anytime between 8am-8pm, seven days a week. We can book in four, six and eight hourly sessions. Like most of our profession, we are also hoping to return to clinical dentistry when it is safe to do so. We will try and work these flexible shifts around our clinical commitments as we ease back into practice. Our role in this test, track and trace initiative is a way of allowing us all to get back to normality quicker within dentistry and for society as a whole. So watch this space and I’ll try and report back once we get stuck in.

Positivity

From very early on in the ‘lockdown’ I vowed to remain optimistic. I kept away from negativity to consciously try to appreciate all the new experiences it would bring; good as well as bad. I even started my own Facebook group called Dental Coronavirus Positivity as a platform where we could post stories of inspiration and kindness that would help us get through the testing times.

We’ve since changed it to Dental Positivity Group for it to grow and remain, even once all this is over. Hopefully it will bring a little more optimism to our profession. I believe there is too much fear and negativity currently. This group is a place to share videos, gifs, news, tips and ideas of how we can best utilise our time, stay positive and bring joy where we can.

I have been fortunate to use the time to reflect and spend time with my young family. I have found a new appreciation of nature walks, what I have on my doorstep and PE with Joe Wicks!

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